Be the change you wish to see!







    Big Creek People In Action is located in the town of Caretta, West Virginia in McDowell County - West Virginia's southern-most county. This beautiful region of the country is replete with natural resources, and yet is the sixth poorest area in America.


    Although the people of this region are generally poor in terms of material wealth, they are extremely rich in spirit. Visitors to this area are welcomed with incredible hospitality by the entire community. The simplicity of life here enables visitors to step away from the distractions and fast pace that have come to characterize American society. McDowell County, West Virginia offers the chance to slow down, truly breathe, and soak in the simple pleasures of small town living that are seemingly lost amid our hurried culture.


    During the 1800s, this region of the country was an isolated area populated by 2,000 hearty and independent mountaineers that hunted and trapped game, worked the land, and raised large families. By the early 1900s, entrepreneurs from outside the area discovered rich resources of timber, coal, and gas and successfully gained control over most of the land and resources. By the 1950s, the coal industry increased the area's population to over 100,000 by recruiting skilled and courageous workers from the deep South, as well as across Europe and the world, to mine coal in the "heart of the billion-dollar coal fields."


    Like most coal communities, Big Creek District enjoyed the good times and struggled through the bad times with the coal industry. The depression of the 1980s took a great toll in the area. At one time, all major coal operations closed; several were bankrupt and never re-opened.


    Families suffered because of unemployment. Poverty increased dramatically. The well being of families and children deteriorated. Health care and education rapidly declined. Since 1980, 60 percent of the residents have left the area, primarily seeking employment and a higher standard of living.


Exacerbating the poverty in this region are the floods that have occurred in recent years, destroying many homes and forcing many to find residence in other communities. In July 2001, one large flood and two smaller ones occurred in McDowell County. This was reported to be one of the worst cases of flooding on record for this area. Local media reported that 1,500 homes and businesses were damaged, 600 people were left homeless, damages in the county approximated $100 million, and one preschool child lost his life.


    On May 2, 2002, the sky darkened once again and torrential rains fell for several hours. Creeks, rivers, and streams rose, left their banks, and covered valleys from mountain to mountain. Raging water and trees left on the ground from timbering cascaded down the mountains into streams, homes, and communities. Homes, businesses, schools, health care facilities, government buildings, churches, and parks were damaged or destroyed. Bridges and roads were destroyed. Electricity, water and sewer services, telephone and cable services, radio and newspaper services all shut down, leaving people in the dark and cut off from the outside world. Many lost everything - their homes, vehicles, pets, mementos, and possessions. Children were trapped overnight in schools or on school buses, or were dropped off at local businesses and their families did not know where they were or if they were alive. Seven people died as a result of this flood.




    Approximately 25,000 people live in McDowell County, with Big Creek District having 6,300 of them. In the District, over half the residents are women, 5 percent are African American, a third are young, and nearly 90 percent of families with children are low to moderate income. McDowell County statistics:

6th poorest area in America 5th highest child poverty rate in America 6th worst health status in America Unemployment doubles state rate and more than triples national rate Median family income is one half the national level One of lowest levels of educational achievement in the nation Highest adult illiteracy rate in West Virginia Only 44 percent of high school graduates attend college One of lowest levels of college graduates in the workforce in the nation (3.4 percent) 85 percent of land and natural resources are owned by absentee landowners.




    For entertainment, people enjoy square dancing, bingo, and concerts at Liberty Bluegrass Hall, fishing at Berwind Lake, hiking, community festivals, and the company of those around them.